Because this version of Ted is so divorced from the murderer we're familiar with, there's very little tension. Save for a shocking moment at the end, Berlinger largely stays away from the violence that Ted perpetrates. On the one hand, that's admirable. Nobody wants a torture porn that glorifies the gruesomeness of his attacks. But on the other hand, it feels somewhat disingenuous, especially if you go by Kloepfer's own admission that Bundy once tried to suffocate her, an act she thought was accidental at the time.
The filmmakers seem to be charmed by Ted's ostensible charisma, and the ingenuity that allowed him to escape captivity multiple times, then act as his own lawyer during his trial for killing two in the Florida State Chi Omega sorority house. These are the traits that lead Judge Edward Cowart (John Malkovich) to tell Bundy he would have made a good lawyer, even as the judge delivers a death sentence.
If there's one thing Extremely Wicked reiterates, it's that women loved this guy when he wasn't mutilating them. After it moves on from Liz, it focuses on Carol Anne Boone (Kaya Scodelario), who ended up marrying Bundy after he proposed in court. Carol isn't offered much of an internal life outside of her unhinged devotion to Bundy -- it's only slightly better treatment than that afforded to the groupie types who showed up at his Florida trial enamored with him and convinced of his innocence.
The gaze trained on the women who associated with Bundy is largely befuddled and lacking in any sort of insight or depth. Liz's suspicions with regards to her former partner are saved for a twist, allowing us to believe she ignored all the warnings, including the fact that he was identified by a potential victim in a Utah court room. The movie paints her as blinded by her own loneliness, guilt, and the promise of a good man ripped away. Her final confrontation is chilling, abetted by strong performances from Collins and Efron, but it's too little too late.
Extremely Wicked accomplishes its goal of explaining that a handsome, well-spoken, white man can be -- behind a Zac Efron physique -- truly, deeply despicable. The only problem is most women already know that. At least there's value in seeing Efron channeling Bundy's carefully mustered pitiful rage upon learning his ultimate fate, tears welling in his unremorseful eyes.